A creamy combo of cheddar, smoked Gouda and blue cheeses mixed in with the trademark elbow macaroni, then topped with caramelized onions. Is your mouth watering yet? That’s the description of The Fly Trap’s 3 Cheese and Mac. I’ve had friends go in and order this dish planning on eating about a third of it at the diner and then snacking on the rest for a week afterwards.
Located in Ferndale, The Fly Trap’s notoriety for serving classic dishes alongside funky favorites like Asian pho bowls and tofu fried rice have made it not only a hit among locals, but even the Food Network has featured its fixins’ on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (that’s where I first heard about it).
Kara McMillian and her brother Sean McClanaghan are the co-owners of the popular dining spot. Kara’s husband, Gavin, is the brain (and head chef!) behind the eclectic, mouth-watering menu. Here, she spills on her favorite ingredients – and her go-to dish when she dines at work.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
I love cooking with spice. Big flavors are what set us apart. That’s our biggest complaint when we have new guests come to the restaurant: We like to add a little spice to our dishes. At home we always have sambal oelek, which is a Vietnamese red chili paste, on hand. Olive oil. Locally made tofu.
Your favorite meal?
My favorite meal on the menu is the fried rice. We use short grain brown rice, tons of roasted eggplant and red pepper; shiitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms; carrots; sugar snap peas; fresh spinach; and a splash of chili paste. It’s so good with lots of veggies and whole grain rice. Mmmm. It’s something that I like to have to take home with me.
We all have a favorite indulgence. For a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
I recently took up making desserts. I used recipes from Baked, which is from a bakery in New York City. Their brownies are absolutely spectacular. I get requests for pans and more pans. The key is there’s the smallest amount of espresso powder in the brownies and that turns the corner with the flavor – they are super rich.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
I made a whole batch of cookies once and let people eat them without trying them myself. They had way too much flour and baking soda in them.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
Tofu. We buy our tofu from Michigan Soy Products in Royal Oak. It’s a really good product. We also get fresh fruit and fresh-squeezed juices from the Western Market right here in Ferndale.
What do you suggest for first-timers to The Fly Trap? What menu item should they make sure to try?
There are two categories of first timers. For a real crowd-pleaser, I would suggest the Charmoula Chicken, which is a North African spiced chicken breast, jack cheese, caramelized onion on grilled sourdough with a lemon, garlic aioli. But for those who are a little more adventurous, I’d recommended the Vietnamese pho bowl, which is a really brothy, spicy dish that has your choice of tofu or chicken, rice and tons of veggies. On a cold day, it’s really heartwarming.
If you’d like to get a taste of The Fly Trap at home, McMillian graciously shared with Crumbs the Red Chile Salmon Burger recipe. It’s good to the last crumb!